He stands taller than me now, looking down at me with big eyes that swim with hormonal emotion. If anyone ever tells you that boys are easier than girls, I want you to laugh in their face.
Boy or girl, a strong-willed child can be exhausting and overwhelming. But strong-willed children also make fantastic leaders, so if we can manage the parenting, it’s quite thrilling to think of who those kids of ours could become.
Here are a few tips for dealing with an overwhelming child.
1.) Talk Less, Smile More
Lovers of the musical ‘Hamilton‘ will appreciate this first suggestion. Aaron Burr’s method of communication may have been ill suited for politics, but in parenting this is a phrase worth heeding.
Moms tend to use more words than necessary in an attempt to get our kids to listen and respond. Unfortunately, a strong-willed child is likely to tune out our words quickly and often if we use too many of them.
When dealing with a child who has strong opinions, it’s best to keep the dialogue at a minimum. Give instruction, and make known the consequence if that instruction isn’t followed, then offer a gentle smile of encouragement and be done talking. There is no sense in engaging in back and forth dialogue with a kid who likes to have the last word.
Talk less, smile more.
Strong-willed children need defined boundaries, and we need to follow through with the consequences if they exceed those boundaries. Consistently following through, particularly when these children are young, does wonders for the overwhelming child and his mother.
None of us like to nag our children, nor are we particularly fond of losing our temper. If we can remain calm, and follow through with discipline when these kids push the boundaries, we can more easily and quickly keep them on track throughout the day.
This isn’t easy, by any means. It’s exhausting, but it’s also so necessary. Because as much as they like to buck the system, the fact is overwhelming kids thrive in an orderly place.
3.) Keep Your Cool
Oh this is a hard one. So hard, in fact, that I almost left it off the list because I fail at this point on a regular basis. Sometimes I think my kids are just trying to make me turn into a crazy person, but deep down I know that’s not the case.
They’re just being children.
Maintaining control over our own emotions is paramount to dealing with our children, particularly the ones who overwhelm us.
This is, of course, easier said than done, but don’t ever underestimate the power of putting yourself into time out. When your child is pushing your buttons, leaving the room and taking a few deep breaths is one of the best things you can do.
It gives your child a physical example of restraint. It allows you to clear your head. It helps with the whole “Talk Less, Smile More” concept, and it gives you a chance to formulate a plan for the rest of the day.
I’m a fan of Mommy Time-Outs
4.) Look for the Positive in Your Child and Highlight It
I have one child who is more overwhelming than the rest. He exhausts me on a daily basis…but he also inspires me daily.
He’s got a huge heart for people, and he’s a natural born leader. He doesn’t see it yet, but I hope that one day he understands just how greatly the Lord has gifted him.
When I step back and let my eyes refocus, not on his flaws but rather on his strengths, I can then speak life into those strengths. Like anyone else, the strong-willed kid needs to hear “Good job” every once in awhile, perhaps even more so than the more compliant child.
The fact is, kids who struggle to stay in control of themselves are often lacking confidence. They know that their behavior causes problems, and they need to be reminded, sometimes often, of the good things in their personalities.
Speak life into your strong-willed child, forcefully and frequently.
5.) Hold On
If we can hold on through these years of raising children, and keep in mind the fact that overwhelming kids turn into confident adults if guided properly, then we can maintain perspective.
We have a short time with our children under our roofs. That time can feel terminally long, however, when the child has a difficult personality, but don’t lose sight of the fact that parenting is but a fraction of your days.
In the blink of an eye, those kids will be gone, and we’ll look back on this days as ones who made it to the other side of a battlefield. There will be a few wrinkles and grey hair, but with any luck those kids will circle back around sometime in the future with a hug of gratitude.
And maybe they’ll even have an overwhelming child of their own to deal with.
Won’t that be fun?